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LOS ALAMITOS : Harness Race Meeting Will Feature New Faces, a New Racing Schedule


Harness racing returns to Los Alamitos Friday after a six-month break, with several new faces among the driver-trainer ranks and a four-day week.

Harness promoters have broken away from the normal five-program week in favor of a Wednesday-through-Saturday format. Last year's meeting ran five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday from February to early June, then Wednesday to Sunday in the rest of June and July. The shift to the shorter week is an effort to improve the racing programs, according to Lloyd Arnold, president and general manager of the Los Alamitos Racing Assn., which conducts the harness meetings.

The meeting will run through April 25, when harness racing shifts to Cal-Expo in Sacramento from May 8 to Aug. 8, before returning to Los Alamitos from Aug. 21 to Nov. 14. The 1992 schedule, which is longer than the single February-to-July meeting that offered the only 1991 harness racing in the state, has provided harness officials with a selling point for out-of-state horsemen, many of whom were reluctant to ship a stable to California for brief meetings.

During the off-season, Arnold, director of standardbred racing Fred Kuebler and racing secretary Ron Goldman visited horse sales and backstretches throughout the United Staes and Canada, attracting horsemen to California. Arnold said he expects as many as 20 new drivers and trainers, including Greg Wright, Terry Kerr, Keith Clark and Steve Warrington. Kerr has won 4,371 races in his career, Wright 2,889, Clark 2,689 and Warrington 2,235.

The California crowd is back. Leading driver-trainers Joe Anderson and Ross Croghan will have large stables, as will trainers Paul Blumenfeld and Robert Gordon. The stakes schedule is highlighted by the $250,000 Shelly Goudreau Pace for 3-year-old pacers on April 25, and includes more series than were offered in 1991.

Quarter horse trainer Frank Monteleone reported shortly after Saturday's $157,000 La Primera Del Ano Derby for 3-year-old fillies that Corona Chick, the 1-9 favorite who was scratched at the gate after being caught in her stall, emerged with no injuries, only a couple of scratches on her legs.

The 10-horse field for the 400-yard race was in the gate and just seconds from a start when Corona Chick, seeking her 10th consecutive victory, threw a fit in the gate and was briefly caught in her stall. After jockey Kip Didericksen scrambled to safety, gate crew members pinned the filly down so she could not injure herself. She was immediately scratched by the stewards, much to the disappointment of the fans who had made her an overwhelming favorite.

"I feel bad," said Monteleone, who credited the gate crew with saving the filly from serious injury. "But she came out of the situation with a couple of scratches. She'll be back. They'll have to contend with her."

As a 2-year-old, Corona Chick was unbeaten in her last eight starts, including four major futurities at Los Alamitos. She set a track record of 17.22 seconds for 350 yards on Oct. 16, which was voted race of the meet. She is expected to be named 2-year-old and 2-year-old filly of 1991 by the American Quarter Horse Assn., which will announce the year-end awards on ESPN's "America's Horse" tonight at 9.

The filly is scheduled to undergo minor knee surgery Saturday, according to Monteleone, but should be back at the races by early summer.

When the field was reloaded nine minutes later, Easily a Rogue, the new favorite, pulled away for her first stakes victory and fifth win in 12 starts. Easily a Rogue, owned by David Clymer and trainer Russell Harris, was third to Corona Chick last year in the Kindergarten Futurity. "I was pleased with my mare," said Harris, who has won two previous runnings of the La Primera. "She didn't get away well, and I think it was because of the commotion. She relaxed a little bit (after being taken out of her gate)."

Dash Ta Fame, second to Corona Chick last November in the Dash For Cash Futurity, ran his winning streak to four races with a three-quarter-length victory in the $182,300 El Primero Del Ano Derby for 3-year-old colts and geldings Saturday night, 24 minutes after the La Primera. The colt by First Down Dash has won five of seven starts, including a victory in the Golden State Futurity last month.

Like Corona Chick, Dash Ta Fame will be out of racing for a few months, though not for surgery. He should be racing again in May, when quarter horse racing resumes at Los Alamitos. Dash Ta Fame, ridden by Henry Garcia and trained by Blane Schvaneveldt, ran 400 yards in 19.62 seconds, a stakes record. "He did it like a professional," said Bob Burt, Dash Ta Fame's owner. "We're pretty darn proud of him. He may not be Corona Chick, but he's our Corona Chick."

Friday night, Jazzing Hi broke a three-race losing streak with a half-length victory in the $75,000 Horsemen's Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Championship, his final start before being sent to stud duty at Childers Ranch in Fresno.

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